With a setting steeped in food and farming history, Holkham Hall is once again set to provide the perfect venue for the North Norfolk Food and Drink Festival which takes place this weekend, as Victoria Leggett reports.

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Three centuries ago, Holkham Hall was at the heart of the agricultural revolution and, this weekend, the historic estate will once again be showing off the best of the county’s food and farming industries.

The North Norfolk Food and Drink Festival will return to the stunning setting with hopes of surpassing last year’s impressive visitors numbers.

And with more local producers exhibiting than ever before, organisers believe the area’s food and drink offering is more than deserving of such an eager audience.

The festival, which once again be the opening event of the wider, month-long Norfolk Food and Drink Festival, has grown at an impressive rate since it began in 2010.

From just under 40 stalls for its inaugural event, the third annual North Norfolk Food and Drink Festival will this year grow to have at least 60 local food producers exhibiting along the historic grounds of the Holkham Hall courtyard.

Most will be offering samples for people to try and give them a chance to stock up their cupboards with tasty local food.

Teddy Maufe, North Norfolk Food and Drink Festival chairman, admits he was initially surprised to see the festival grow in popularity so quickly. After a promising start in 2010, last year’s festival saw a huge surge in the number of visitors, with more than 8,000 being drawn to the Holkham Hall courtyard over the course of the two days.

But the festival chairman says the food and drink found in his part of Norfolk was overdue such eager attention.

“We have such a wealth of local food and drink in this area. I think this festival was well over-due to happen. It was something that should have been done sooner,” he adds.

“We have not only the venue but a huge variety of excellent food and drink from the land and also the sea as well.

“The courtyard lends itself so much to this sort of event. It’s such a lovely place to have a food and drink festival and that, I’m sure, is part of the secret of its success.”

Among the new food and drink producers exhibiting this year are Mortons Traditional Taste poultry, from Keyton, and The Chocolate Deli, from Walsingham, who will join festival regulars like Bray’s Cottage Pork Pies, Buns of Fun, and Mrs Temple’s Cheese.

Mary Kemp, food writer and member of the festival organising committee, says: “We really do cover everything from fruit and vegetables to cakes and ales.

“We cover the whole spectrum of local food and drink.”

Alongside the producers market will be the popular cookery theatre, once again hosted by Mary from the octagonal gazebo, which will also include the final of this year’s Local Food Challenge.

New to the festival this year will be a food court, based outside the courtyard as visitors arrive at the festival, with eight local producers selling hot and cold food to enjoy on site. Food lovers are set to be able to enjoy ice cream, pop corn, beer, hog roast and seafood, among others, ahead of filling their baskets with food and drink to take home.

This year’s festival will be opened at 10am on Saturday by Lady Coke of Holkham Hall.

David Horton-Fawkes, estates director at Holkham, says: “We are delighted to be able to host the festival for the third year running.

“The organisers have worked hard each year to develop and broaden the appeal of the festival so that more and more people can enjoy the benefits of discovering so many good and local products.

“We are particularly pleased that Lady Coke will open the festival this year as she is a great supporter of local produce and the whole ethos of shopping locally.”

A full list of exhibitors and the cookery theatre programme will be published in Friday’s EDP.

To find out more about the two-day festival ahead of that, go to www.norfolkfoodanddrinkfestival.co.uk or www.northnorfolkfoodfestival.co.uk

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